$10.1M Johnstown budget raises tax rate 2.4%

The Johnstown Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a $10.1 million budget for 20

The Johnstown Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a $10.1 million budget for 2010 that increases the city’s property tax rate by 2.4 percent.

The budget increases total spending by about 2.3 percent from $9.9 million in 2009. It would raise the property tax rate 38 cents from $15.98 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $16.36.

Mayor Sarah Slingerland said it was a difficult budget process but she was glad the city was able to keep the property tax rate increase and overall spending increase both under 3 percent, likely below the rate of inflation. She said she was pleased the budget did not require any city employees to be laid off.

“We were able to kind of hold the line because fuel costs were down. We don’t anticipate spending as much this year in demolition costs because we caught up with what we needed to do, our debt service is a little less and we’ve had a couple of retirements and therefore the newer employees are less expensive,” she said.

The city started its budget process with a projected 9 percent tax rate increase, thanks to $477,000 in increased personnel costs. Slingerland and the Common Council lowered the projected increase by applying $290,000 of the city’s fund balance — its unspent reserves from previous years — to the city’s budget and by estimating a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in sales tax.

The $10.1 million budget projects $3.25 million in 2010 sales tax revenue, up from $3.1 million in 2009. The fund balance withdrawal is expected to leave the city with approximately $800,000 in reserve at the end of 2010.

Those reserves took a bigger than expected hit last week when Gov. David Paterson ordered a delay in 10 percent of state aid to cities. Johnstown had anticipated only 3 percent would be delayed, in the range of $45,000, but now the city has to make do without $136,249.

Slingerland said every $100,000 of revenue is equal to roughly 50 cents of the city’s tax rate. She said she’s concerned the state will never pay the $136,249 and could cut that amount or more from 2010 aid.

“If it’s a delayed payment what we fear is it could become a permanent cut and that would have more impact on the budget,” she said.

Councilman-At-Large Bryan Marcucci said he voted for the 2010 budget knowing the council may be required to amend it later in the year if more state aid is cut.

“During the course of the year the council has the right to revise the budget, so if we need a revision two or three months down the road we can do that,” he said. “I’m thinking we’re going to go along and see what the state does.”

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